SCHAUMBURG, Ill. - Our Hungry Hound loves all barbecue, but he is especially fond of Korean-style. That's because the beef is always thinly-sliced, cooked over high-heat, and always comes with a large assortment of vegetables. He says one of his new favorites is in Schaumburg.
Korean barbecue differs from what we know of in Texas, the Carolinas and even Chicago, in that, rather than "low and slow," the thinly-sliced and marinated beef is cooked "high and fast." plus, there's a lot more than just beef, including excellent side dishes and one of the best seafood pancakes of its kind. Even if you don't live anywhere near the IKEA or medieval times, this suburban barbecue joint is worth the drive.
The sheer number of colors, textures and flavors on the table makes Korean barbecue so unique. At 92 Town Korean Barbecue, hidden away in a Schaumburg strip mall on Golf Road, the beef is among the region's best.
"We have non-marinated kalbi, then we have the marinated kalbi. They're both cut by my mom. We came here when I was young and she's been in the restaurant industry for a while, so she's very good at what she does," said S.J. Lee, whose family runs the restaurant.
Non-marinated ribeye is highly marbled; it's grilled on a hot stone bowl, which sears it, along with mushrooms, onions and fresh garlic. When cooked, just dip in the seasoned sesame oil, wrap up in lettuce and enjoy. The thinly-sliced short ribs, marinated in asian pears, sesame and soy, is an altogether different kalbi, and it's grilled over a porous surface, allowing fat to drip away. Instead of dipping into sesame oil, try ssamjang, made from soybeans and garlic.
Then there's the colorful banchan, or complimentary side dishes; here, they're fresh and vibrant: kimchi radish, kimchi cabbage, crunchy cukes, roasted squash, pickled and shredded daikon radish and delicate fish cakes are a few of the highlights.
"We have eight different banchan, or side dishes. Think of like a Thanksgiving meal, to accommodate with the main meal. You can get a lettuce wrap while having the barbecue," said Lee.
They also make classic bibimbop in a hot stone bowl, and my favorite rendition of the seafood pancake known as haemul pajeon. Loaded with scallions and squid, it's somehow served crispier than any version I've had in the city.
"The combination of experience, my mother and our main chef, who's been around the Chicagoland area in all the top Korean restaurants for over 30 years, combine their expertise, they know how to make the best pajun," Lee said.
Just be sure to sweep the square-cut pieces through the dipping sauce on the side. There's also makgeolli - the milky, fermented rice drink that somehow disappears fast with a few people at the table, but it's the crunchy, vibrant vegetables that always make Korean barbecue so delicious.
"It gives a lot of different flavors. It's mostly vegetables so it's a healthy option as well," he said.
In Steve's extra course, he talks about one of the fantastic, steaming bowls of kimchi stew that they serve at the restaurant - perfect on a cold day.
Extra Course: Kimchi stew at 92 Town Korean BBQ
92 Town Korean BBQ
243 W Golf Rd, Schaumburg